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Honour Based Violence and Abuse

Honour Based Violence and Abuse is carried out in the name of protecting family honour and because the perpetrator believes that the victim has brought shame to the family or community.

1. Definition and Overview

There is no statutory definition of Honour Based Abuse (HBA).  However, the National Police Chief Council (NPCC) have provided guidance and a definition which states that HBA is:

 ‘an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation, coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse), which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and / or community’s code of behaviour’.

Unlike domestic abuse where it is typically one person abusing another, in cases of HBA and the perpetrators can be one or many including:

  • father and mother
  • brother and sister
  • grandparents
  • uncles, aunts, cousins
  • community members
  • bounty hunters/’hit men’

Crimes committed may include:

  • False imprisonment or kidnap
  • Domestic Servitude
  • ABH or GBH
  • Threats to kill
  • Harassment and stalking
  • Sexual assault
  • Rape
  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • Forced to commit suicide
  • Forced Marriage
  • Murder
  • Human Trafficking
  • Child Abuse
  • Disfigurement
  • Burning
  • Perverting the Course of Justice

For every crime committed there are also numerous incidents of bullying, emotional and psychological abuse. Some victims have very restricted movements and are under constant supervision having little contact with the outside world.


2. Prevalence

There are approximately 17,000 reported incidents of HBA or forced marriage in the UK each year with at least 12 murders in the name of honour occurring each year in the UK. However, as HBA is a hidden crime with victims often unable or unwilling to come forward, it is difficult to fully determine the prevalence of HBA crimes within the UK and across Tees.


3. Potential HBA Trigger Events/Behaviours

  • rejecting an arranged / forced marriage
  • interfaith and inter-race relationships / relationship with someone that is not accepted by family
  • elopement
  • renouncing a faith / changing religion
  • loss of virginity
  • sex or pregnancy outside of marriage
  • abortion
  • coming out as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)
  • expressions of autonomy
  • the existence of a boyfriend/girlfriend
  • adultery
  • leaving a spouse or seeking a divorce
  • a refusal to divorce when ordered to do so by family members
  • being to ‘westernised’ – Inappropriate make-up or dress, kissing or being intimate in a public place
  • reporting rape (being raped may be deemed a bring disgrace to the family)
  • reporting domestic abuse
  • rejecting the practice of FGM
  • running away
  • causing gossip
  • choosing a career route that is not accepted by family/community
  • Smoking in public
  • Inappropriate make up or dress
  • Objection to being removed from education
  • Truanting
  • Interfaith relationship


4. Signs to Look For

  • the victim or family come from a community where the idea of ‘Honour’ is culturally embedded.
  • there may feel like an element of ‘surveillance’ and control by the family or community members. In the case of adults, this might present where the victim is routinely accompanied to and from a place of work. In children or young people, they may be driven to and from school, not able to walk or travel on public transport with friends.
  • they might field a high number of phone calls from family members or their spouse. They may look uncomfortable taking the calls, quiet and withdrawn afterwards.
  • a victim may be accompanied to the doctors by a family member or spouse.
  • there may be noticeable levels of absenteeism, lateness – school, college or employment.
  • significant personality changes may become evident. He/she may appear and behave depressed, withdrawn, anxious or suicidal.
  • there may be noticeable deterioration in the victim’s appearance, a lack of grooming.
  • physical injuries apparent, often frequent injuries, with the victim explaining them away as ‘accidental’.
  • they may dress unusually to disguise bruises or injuries i.e. neck scarf in hot weather.
  • Victims with insecure immigration status may not have access to public funds and have reduced access to services and therefore suffer social isolation.
  • Communication difficulties speaking/reading English. Consideration must be given to the appropriate use of interpreters rather than family/community members who may be perpetrators.
  • Loyalties to abusers; victims may love their parents and relatives and not want to see them prosecuted.
  • Malicious allegations may be made against victims and culture and religion may be used as an excuse for violence against them
  • Repeat victims. Victims may also have been threatened by someone else and/or live in fear e.g. Head of the family, brothers.


5. Disclosure and Response

5.1 When receiving a disclosure from a child, professionals should recognise the seriousness/immediacy of the risk of harm.

5.2 For a child to report to any agency that they have fears of honour-based violence in respect of themselves or a family member requires a lot of courage, and trust that the professional/agency they disclose to will respond appropriately. Under no circumstances should the agency allow the child’s family or social network to find out about the disclosure, so as not to put the child at further risk of harm.

5.3 Authorities in some countries may support the practice of honour-based violence, and the child may be concerned that other agencies share this view, or that they will be returned to their family. The child may be carrying guilt about their rejection of cultural/family expectations. Furthermore, their immigration status may be dependent on their family, which could be used to dissuade them from seeking assistance.

5.4 Where there is a disclosure of suspicion of honour-based violence, staff in all agencies/organisations should respond immediately by referring to social care First Response Team, or where there is imminent risk, directly to the police.

5.5 Staff in all agencies should make full records of any conversation with the young person and ensure that they complete an accurate account of what is said.

5.6. Referring agencies should make an assessment of risk of harm using a dedicated assessment tool e.g. DASH.

5.7. The social care and police response should include:

  • seeing the child immediately in a secure and private place
  • seeing the child on their own
  • explaining to the child the limits of confidentiality
  • asking direct questions to gather enough information to make a referral to Children’s Social Care and the police, including recording the child’s wishes
  • encouraging and/or helping the child to complete a personal risk assessment
  • developing an emergency safety plan with the child
  • agreeing a means of discreet future contact with the child explaining that a referral to Children’s Social Care and the police will be made
  • record all discussions and decisions (including rationale if no decision is made to refer to Children’s Social Care)

5.8. If the young person is under 18 years of age, refer them to the designated person with responsibility for safeguarding children and activate local safeguarding procedures. A strategy meeting should be held following this referral. The strategy meeting will include representatives from agencies involved with the young person and this would include children's services, health, police and education as an example. It is important that the person who has identified the concern is available to attend this meeting. The strategy meeting allows all information to be shared and safeguarding actions to be put in place.

5.9. Professionals should not approach the family or community leaders, share any information with them or attempt any form of mediation. In particular, members of the local community should not be used as interpreters.

5.10. All multi-agency discussions should recognise the police responsibility to initiate and undertake a criminal investigation as appropriate.

5.11. Multi-agency planning should consider the need for providing suitable safe accommodation for the child, as appropriate.

5.12. If a child is taken abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may assist in repatriating them to the UK.


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